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Kubernetes vs Docker: 4 Must-Know Facts

  • Containerization technology addresses the problem of how to maintain the consistent performance of an application across digital ecosystems.
  • Since 2013, Docker has been the standard for containerized development by providing a framework for isolating code.
  • As projects become more complex, developers must coordinate multiple containers to prevent implementation and runtime issues.
  • Kubernetes is a container orchestration tool that organizes containers into pods and nodes for easy control and monitoring.

Containerization solves a fundamental problem for developers. It can be challenging to move a new application from the development environment to the production environment. Software that works perfectly on the developer’s computer will have glitches when it moves to a server for the next development stage. This behavior is often due to variations between the dependencies and networking protocols of the two environments.

Platforms like Docker solve this issue by creating a space that holds the code in a sterile environment that transfers seamlessly from one machine to another. Removing friction from the development process has made containerization one of the most popular technologies in the programming world.

Kubernetes represents the next step in this process. As applications become more complex, several containers must work together for proper operation. Kubernetes orchestrates this work as a tool that coordinates application containers and automates container-based processes.

Kubernetes vs Docker: Comparing Them Side by Side

Basic DefinitionContainerization platformContainer orchestration platform
Primary FunctionDevelop containerized applicationsCoordinate multiple containers
Basic UnitContainerPod
Current DeveloperDocker, Inc.Cloud Native Computing Foundation
Year Released20132015
PricingMonthly per-user feeFlat fee per cluster

A Deep Dive into Docker

The containerized approach to development has revolutionized the industry. Removing friction points from the process has shortened development times and improved results. In the container model, the code for an application sits in virtual isolation, and the local environment cannot affect its operation. The code can travel from developer machine to server without changes in functionality.

This modular approach also improves the maintenance and upgrade process. When it is time for an updated feature, developers can remove the old container and install a new one. They can perform this operation without the need for changes in any other containers associated with the application.

docker alternatives
Docker uses OS-level virtualization to deliver software in packages called containers.

©Michael Vi/Shutterstock.com

Docker is the product of a long history that goes back to the release of Unix v7 in 1979. This software involved the first instance of process isolation with a reconfigured root directory. Over the decades, several technologies developed using the Linux kernel as a framework for containerization such as Open VZ, LXC and Warden. Since its 2013 release, Docker has become the standard in containerized development.

Docker began as a platform for creating individual containers. However, a single service may involve several containers. Docker Compose is a tool that allows developers to build multi-container applications.

For larger projects, Docker Swarm provides a similar service to Kubernetes. This software allows the developer to orchestrate connections among containers running on several virtual machines. Because Swarm is native to the Docker ecosystem, some developers find it easier to implement for their projects.

Coordinate Containers with Kubernetes

Developers at Google released Kubernetes in 2015 as an orchestration tool for containerized development. In 2016, the company donated the platform to the Cloud Native Computing Foundation. The name of the software comes from the ancient Greek word for a pilot or helmsman. This platform does not create containers, but it coordinates and balances their implementation in a larger application.

The Kubernetes framework begins with pods. These clusters of containers are the base unit of Kubernetes development. Pods contain a group of related programs that form a service along with the resources that bind them together. Containers in a pod share storage, an IP address, and other network information.

At the next level, Kubernetes uses nodes to coordinate the functions of several pods. A node can be either a virtual or physical machine in a network. Kubernetes can then coordinate the implementation of services on each node.

Using this framework, developers have a helpful resource to build and scale large applications. Kubernetes can handle changes in both services and user volume smoothly. Coordinating nodes leads to more efficient use of server space and network bandwidth. An orchestrated approach will also improve security across the application.

Kubernetes has quickly grown in popularity, and platforms such as IBM Cloud have created Kubernetes-specific services. Developers who want to simplify implementation can use the Kubernetes environment created by IBM. This approach hands many concerns about scaling and security to the IBM Cloud.

Kubernetes word cloud
Kubernetes is a container orchestration tool that organizes containers into pods and nodes for easy control and monitoring.

©iStock.com/Jaiz Anuar

Choosing the Right Tool: Kubernetes vs Docker

It is not exactly appropriate to call for an either/or choice between Docker and Kubernetes. If you are working with Docker as a containerization technology, the question is whether or not adding Kubernetes will improve your application. Often, the choice to work with Kubernetes is a matter of scale. For smaller applications, native Docker resources such as Compose or Swarm may be sufficient to coordinate your containers.

However, as your applications become more complex, you will want the organizing power of Kubernetes to keep things running smoothly. This software platform orchestrates the pieces of complicated applications and provides more efficient use of resources.

To further streamline your implementation, you can work with the Kubernetes-specific tools offered by organizations like AWS and IBM Cloud. Combining containerization with orchestration will provide seamless transitions throughout the development process and a consistent user experience.

Next Up…

Kubernetes vs Docker: A Full Comparison FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions) 

What is the main difference between Kubernetes and Docker?

The main difference between these two platforms is their function. Docker is a primary tool for creating containers. Kubernetes is a resource for coordinating several containers into pods and nodes.

Does Kubernetes need Docker?

Kubernetes works well with Docker, but it can also orchestrate containerized applications from other platforms like rkt and CoreOS Container Linux.

Can you use Docker without Kubernetes?

Docker is a standalone platform for creating containers. A single container will not need orchestration. Docker also provides coordination tools like Docker Compose and Docker Swarm. As a native tool, Swarm can be easier to use for smaller projects. However, Kubernetes can handle more complex applications with high user volumes.

Can Kubernetes manage Docker containers?

Most developers immediately associate Kubernetes with Docker containers. Using these software platforms in combination will result in powerful applications with smooth operation.

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